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Race Recap: 2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

IMG_0308I know that I’m wayyy behind on my blogging. I still want to post about my New Year’s Day 10k race, and my 4th Healthaversary. But while things are still fresh in my head I want to do my race recap for my 3rd half marathon and 2nd Tinker Bell race.

This race was really a do-over for Junior and me. Last year, she and I and Juniorette came down to Disneyland for the Inaugural Tinkerbell race, but she got really sick and in the end, only Juniorette and I got to run the race. So I promised her we’d come back and do it together this year.

The nice thing about doing the same race multiple times, is that you learn things the first time that either work or don’t. We learned that we most definitely wanted to repeat staying at the hotel which is basically a few hundred feet away from the Start AND the Finish lines. That works. Yay!

We got to town in plenty of time to go to the Expo. That was a great thing, because last year I got in late and didn’t get to go. I kind of love race expos.

I got to meet the awesome Jeff Galloway and buy his book. He’s so encouraging and inspiring. I figured I’d better read it, since I’m already more than halfway to 100 years old. 😉

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IMG_0225We looked around at tons of sparkly skirts and wings and stuff, but nothing really grabbed us as THE perfect outfit for Tinkerbell. So in the end we decided we liked the official race shirt enough to make that our race outfit. After the Expo we went to downtown Disney to find something for dinner. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to eat. The classic “carb loading” pasta dinner didn’t feel really like what I wanted. So we ended up with tilapia, Brussells sprouts (with bacon!) and a soft egg.  It was insanely yummy but not too filling.

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Then we found a few carbs for dessert 🙂

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We set our alarms for 3:30am. (o boy!) Amazingly, we were able to fall asleep pretty quickly – before 10:00pm anyway -and the wakeup call came early enough. It was not really all that painful to wake up and get dressed. We were pretty excited.

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I had brought a ton of warm clothes to wear to the start line, but in the end we just decided to go with our race shirts. We went downstairs and right in front of the hotel, there was the start line. PERFECT LOCATION.

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I gave Junior a hug and she took off for Corral B (the fast people) and I headed back to E. (the END!) It wasn’t quite as cold as I remembered last year being, or nearly as cold as the New Year’s day 10k.

Back in the End, we could see the fireworks going off. That was exciting. But then we waited. And waited. We could sense the D, C and B groups taking off. FINALLY it was our turn – probably after 5:30am. We’d been out there for almost an hour.

First, we wound through Disney California and Disneyland Parks. It was pretty cool. The “Mickey Wheel” and the water-light show was all lit up and beautiful.

IMG_0270One of the things I loved about going through the parks was seeing all the Disney employees out there cheering us on. They were awesome, and so encouraging and enthusiastic. Big Mickey hands everywhere!

IMG_0323I’d say that the first five miles went pretty well. I didn’t feel super springy and awesome, but I didn’t feel bad either. It just felt pretty easy and relaxed. It was exciting to be going through Disneyland and seeing all the sights. I didn’t stand in any lines to get photos with any of the characters. I got pretty excited when I saw Mary Poppins though.

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Running through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle as the sun was coming up, and past the holiday lights of It’s a Small World were pretty great.

So. Around Mile 7, the front of my left ankle (tibialis anterior tendon, which has plagued me in the past) started hurting. And my stomach was feeling kind of bad. In fact, I was hungry. SUPER hungry. I had had some oatmeal at 4:30am, but that felt like an eon ago. I suddenly got it in my head, I have almost halfway to go. In other words, I have to do what I JUST DID. It seemed kind of impossible. I was feeling a little down. I pulled out my Mickey Mouse pretzels (saltzed pretzels is one of my “must haves” during a race, and I forgot to bring my own from home this time).

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I ate some of them, but I think they had been in the hotel gift shop for a long time. They weren’t stellar. I was still hungry. Or something. I remembered that my buddies Ayala and Becky, from my TNT Triathlon Team, were running too. I wondered if they were anywhere near me. I pulled out my phone and texted Ayala. Where are u? I am between mile 7-8.

I really needed something at that moment. I was feeling pretty bleak. Not HOPELESS, but not awesome. I think my actual physical discomfort was in the 3-out-of-10 range, but my mental distress was about at an 8. I was freaking out a little bit inside. I was worried, what if it gets worse? How am I going to deal with 5-6 more miles of THIS? I was starting to unravel a little.

After the mile 8 marker, it was Gu time! Volunteers were handing out packets of Vanilla and Mocha. I really needed that blast of energy. I felt a little bit better.  Around mile 9, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Ayala! and Becky! I almost cried from joy. Ayala had been my buddy at the Wildflower Triathlon and she is truly one of the sweetest, most encouraging people I know. She kept me going during so many of the tough trainings last year.

We ran together for a while and by the time I was ready to take off again, I was feeling like a new person. I perked up and started paying more attention to the people around me. I saw this guy up ahead running in a suit. I wondered, is that for real? Why a suit? What kind of costume is that?? And then I caught up with him and… it was Walt Disney! Hahaha. Great.

"Cryogenics does wonders!" he said.
“Cryogenics does wonders!” he said.

A little bit further up, I saw a lovely trio. Peter Pan and Tinker Bell were taking turns pushing Captain Hook in a wheelchair. They all looked super chipper and glad to be together. I loved them. Captain Hook grinned and said, “Arr!” when I took their picture.

IMG_0319I had told Ayala and Becky that I wanted to take a picture together with them at the 10 mile mark, but when I got there suddenly I was feeling perkier than I had the whole race. I felt like I just couldn’t stop. I also knew that if I stopped or slowed down I might not be able to start up again.

Around this time I got a couple of worried text messages from Mr. McBody and Junior. He had been tracking my progress online. Apparently my 5k time was realllllly slow, and then for some reason my 10k marker didn’t show up. So like 2 hours had gone by and they’d heard nothing from me. (I heard all about this yesterday) I hadn’t heard their texting coming through my earbuds because I had decided to go the no-music route. (partly because the course was so entertaining I didn’t need it, and partly because I wanted to save my phone battery)

I sent them this picture as reassurance.

IMG_0282I remember a lot of the mile 10-13.1 from my other (two!) half marathons. During my first, the Las Vegas Half, I was pretty much dying at mile 11. I mean dying. I was in AWFUL pain and not sure I would make it. And at last year’s Tinkerbell, the last couple miles were the hardest.

This is the first half marathon where the last couple of miles felt the strongest and best. After I passed the ten mile mark, I knew I could do it. I relaxed. I stopped freaking out.

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After mile 12, I was definitely on a mission. I wanted to get as close to the 3 hour mark as I could. My last year’s time had been 3:16 and I just wanted to shave as much time off of that as possible. Normally, my run pace for long races (and even for short races) is what most people would call ambling along.

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But when I knew I just had a mile and a handful to go, I suddenly got determine. I started RUNNING.

game face!
game face!

Pretty soon the finish line was in sight (although – not happy! they moved it about 200 yards further from last year. Psych!). I saw Junior standing by the fence waving. And then I was through and I had my medal.

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I found Junior. She had finished over an hour ahead of me (2 hours 45 seconds, my little rockstar!) and had had a great race.

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Pretty soon I found Ayala and Becky. I was so happy to see them! They had really contributed to my big turning point near mile 9.

IMG_0309Junior and I decided to wait in the long line for the free massage tent. It turned out to be utterly and completely worth it!

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We were pretty pumped full of endorphins at that point, feeling good, and hungry.

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Junior was craving fajitas so we went to a Mexican restaurant in downtown Disney and enjoyed mass quantities of guacamole.

IMG_0313THEN it was time for a nice long nap.

IMG_0315We had bought all-day Park Hopper tickets, but in all honesty, there was no way we felt like hopping any parks. Happily, I was able to sell the tickets to a friend who is returning for the Disney Marathon in September. Whew.

So we went to the pool and soaked in the hot tub and lay in the SUN (wow! how awesome!).

IMG_0322All in all, it was a sweeeet race and a sweet weekend. I loved spending it with my girl. We had a great time and I was overall really pleased with how it went. Now I’m feeling pretty excited for the Oakland Half Marathon coming up in March, and…. looks like I will be doing the See Jane Run half with my dear Shannon in June!

Re-Sparked

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It’s been a long time since I blogged. Whew. I was in the midst of the Health Blog A Day Challenge when I seriously fell off the bloggy wagon. It was a combination of suddenly getting a HUGE influx of work combined with having a few days of feeling stuck with the blog prompts. At some point I just threw in the towel and haven’t had a chance to look back since then.

The holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) really threw me, schedule wise. In the past, I’ve either been working super part time OR at a nonprofit OR in the academic world. All of which equalled a big break around the holiday times. I was able to shop, organize, cook and clean, wrap and mail. But I used to spend entire days dedicated to those activities. This year, for the first time ever, my schedule got super ramped up right around Thanksgiving. I was suddenly working many more hours, many more miles from home. I would come home exhausted, fall into bed and do paperwork in my pajamas, pass out and do it again. I knew, however, that this crazy schedule was limited. I just had to keep it up until Christmas Eve.

We spent most of Christmas day in our pajamas. We had no dinner guests so we got up late, opened stockings, made our traditional brunch (Mexican baked eggs and Juniorette’s to-die-for cinnamon rolls), opened presents, took a nap, slowly prepared for dinner (which included a no-work honeybaked ham), ate dinner, then went to see the Hobbit (yay).

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The next day we flew to Sundance to meet up with cousins and to take part in some epic, gorgeous snow. It was the first time in weeks (months) that I wasn’t scheduled up like crazy.

I spent two days snowshoeing (which I LOVE) in the most amazing, powdery, fluffy, gorgeous snow ever. Also heck of a workout.

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It was a good reminder for me. To do what I love. To move in a way that makes me happy. Always good to return to this.

Yesterday afternoon I had the biggest treat. I got to meet up with my dear dear friend Shannon, who was one of my very first blogging friends. Back in the day when I was still anonymous, she was always there encouraging me, supporting me and telling me I could do it, whatever It was. So many times she would Tweet or comment, “I just love you Foodie!” and I’d feel so cared about.

Soon I will be meeting up with one of my other oldest and dearest blogging friends – Carla, aka MizFitonline. When I started blogging four years ago, she was one of the only “superstars” who reached out with genuine interest and kindness, for which I will be eternally grateful. I am so excited to welcome her to my part of the world as a neighbor. Sorry Austin – your HUGE loss is my ecstatic gain.

(by the way, world – you can get your own fabulous piece of MizFit by checking out her BRAND SIZZLING NEW E-book “How to Build Muscle and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind” here – I can’t wait to read it! Maybe on the plane home!)

Today I pondered whether to go out for one more glorious snowshoe hike, or to stay snuggled under the down comforter to do what I haven’t in so long – reading, writing, contemplating the icicles.

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The latter won out and I am so glad. I’ve needed down time for so long, to return to my bloggy roots, to take some time to just lie around and contemplate all that is good.

Day 17 #NHBPM: My Running Playlist

Day 17 – Saturday, Nov. 17

My strengths and weaknesses list post
OR
Health Playlist. Make a playlist for your health community

The music that I listen to when I run means a lot to me. Often it moves me to tears. It keeps me going. This is a little sample of my “must listen to” music when I’m running.

  • God Says Nothing Back, by the Wallflowers. This song is just the perfect rhythm for my running pace. If I just had one song to listen to over and over while I run, this would be it.
  • Friend of the Devil by the Counting Crows. This slower version really works for me. And the part about “set out running but I take my time” always resonates with me and makes me smile.
  • Home by Marc Broussard. Fantastic nonstop pound it out song. Makes me just pump it out and GO. Great for bringing up the energy.
  • Drive by Incubus. This one is kind of fast for me but it really also gets me going.  The lyrics speak to me.
    Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
    And I cant help but ask myself how much I’ll let the fear take the wheel and steer
    It’s driven me before, it seems to have a vague
    Haunting mass appeal
    Lately I’m beginning to find that I should be the one behind the wheel
  • Radio Nowhere by Bruce.
  • You Found Me by the Fray. If I hear this song when I am driving my car, it makes me want to stop the car, get out and run.
  • For the Summer by Ray LaMontagne. This is a gentle, loping song. I just love Ray. And I laugh out loud and sing along when he sings “I’m tired… I’m tired…”
  • It Won’t Take Long by Ferron. This is a long song, almost 8 minutes, and it’s one of my almost perfect running songs. “Don’t you want to see yourself as strong?” Yes, I do.
  • Wild World by Cat Stevens. Another slow loper. This is a great cool down song.
  • Human Wheels by John Mellencamp. Great running song. Yeah, human wheels keep going.
  • Come to Jesus by Mindy Smith. I am not a religious person, but this song gives me religion. Especially when running.
  • Safe and Sound by Capital Cities. This was the background music for the Big Blue Test video I did, and will always make me feel emotional and motivated.

Those are my top running songs. If I hear any of them when I’m not running, they make me WANT to run. I know, I know, running with earbuds is unsafe and all. I usually just wear in one ear and let the other one dangle so I can hear what’s going on in the environment too. I will forever be grateful to some of these songs for getting me going when little else would. I can now run without music because I’ve trained myself to do it but I will always have a soft spot for these tunes.

 

Day 12 #NHBPM: My Favorite App(s)

It’s a good thing that we get two “get out of jail free” days from NHBPM. It looks like I just took mine this weekend. I got SLAMMED, scheduled wise. On Saturday I drove four hours (ack!) for a Weight Watchers training (it was good, but more sitting! I paced a lot) and then four hours home.  I was FRIED when I got home. NO blogging Saturday.

Then, Sunday was filled with fun but time-eating social events: a clutterbusting gathering at a friend’s house (how great is that -a small group of us cleared out and organized a pantry, cupboard AND a big entry shelf/drawer thing) in the morning, then a very cool baby shower (books for baby! to build her library! I LOVE THIS IDEA) in the afternoon and then dinner and visit with Junior in the evening. That was my weekend. But no more slacking for me! I’m in it till the end.

Day 12 – Monday, Nov. 12

Call BS on something. What’s something that is just ridiculous? OR “My favorite health app / device / game is…” and review it

OK. I will admit I am not in the mood to “call BS” on anything because I’m just not in the mood for controversy right now. But I could definitely do that in a few cases. I’m going to take the easier route (and more positive!) of discussing my favorite health app/device(s).

Everyone knows I am a big fan of movement devices. I’m loving my Weight Watchers ActiveLink, which is pretty much a WW linked device that is the same as the DirectLife activity monitor. Very similar. They work great.

I was looking at my phone and trying to figure out which app(s) I use and like the most. I think the one I use the most (other than SleepTime, which I already wrote about) is RunKeeper. I’ve been using it a few  years now and anticipate I’ll be using it a lot more now that I am on RUN TEAM (YAYY!).

I love Runkeeper. I love that you can GPS your route, measure time and pace, sync your music and also have audio reminders at time and/or distance markers (every 5 or 10 minutes, every half or quarter mile). It keeps me going to know that I am running an X minute mile. I love being able to link it to FB and Twitter. It’s a great and motivating app and I know I’m going to be using it a lot more.

So that was Day 12! Almost halfway through the month!!

Day 8 #NHBPM: A Letter to My Health

Dear Health,

I wonder how you think I’ve been treating you lately. I admit it isn’t the same intense, hot love that we had back in 2009 when all I thought about was you, all I dreamed about was you. I know, I was kind of borderline obsessed with you, but that was only because I’d neglected you for like, decades, and you gave me that big scare that made me think you were leaving me forever.

I admit that the last year has been kind of bumpy. I know that I sort of was giving lip service to the fact that I cared about you, but that sometimes my actions spoke otherwise. That was not so great of me.

I really want you to stick around. For a long, long time. I think I’ve been trying to figure out all the different things that I need in order to keep you around. I used to think that you would only love me if I exercised all the time and was really strict about what I ate. But then I realize that you are more attached to me than I ever realized and that if I didn’t take care of all of the parts of me, then you would suffer too.

I’m realizing so many more things about our relationship lately – that you need to sleep and rest. That you actually LIKE it if I take time to write. I used to think you were jealous of my writing and that I couldn’t spend time with my writing and have you too. I didn’t really get that you guys are like BFFs. Wow.

I used to think that you only liked doing a few things and I think maybe our relationship got into a little rut and I started feeling bored. I didn’t realize that you liked doing so many of the same things that I do.

Did you know that I’ve been writing about you for 8 days in a row? (how’s that for attention? are you feeling it??) And I’m going to be doing it for the WHOLE month of November. I know! You must be in shock.

Guess what? Some of my favorite people are also writing about their health, too. Isn’t that cool?

Anyway, I just wanted to acknowledge that I was not the best friend I could’ve been. I was trying, but you know how you can be trying and still be sort of “off.” My intentions were good but hey, this is a really long term relationship and sometimes we just make mistakes. I think I can say that I learned from them.

Let me ask you. What did you think of that triathlon training last year? I know it was pretty badass. YOU were a badass and you did things I really never believed were possible. But I also think I was beating up on you a bit too. I don’t know. Maybe it was my mind beating up on both of us. I still have to mull that one over.

This next year, let’s do some more running. Like a couple of half marathons. You want to go to Disneyland again? Let’s dress up for the Tinker Bell Half. I promise it won’t be anything dumb, just something fun and comfortable. Definitely a tutu and maybe some wings? Or just sparkles.

Then I’m going to take you on a half marathon tour of OUR TOWN – yeah, the Oakland Half Marathon! We’re going to see so many of our friends. I’m super excited about this one.

I’m reallly excited to train, with like a REAL running coach, and a team, this time. I know how dumb it was to try to drag you out for half marathons in the past (remember Las Vegas? Yeah I don’t want to either) when I didn’t really know what the heck I was doing. But you should be pleased to know I’ve joined Team in Training again and we’re going to do it RIGHT! With lots of cowbell and support. And of course you know this means you’ll be wearing a lot of purple in the months to come. Heh.

Well, body, we’ve been through a lot. I want to let you know I appreciate you. I’m going to be taking better care of you. I know you’re feeling kind of tight and that you’ve got some aches and pains. I’m going to get that taken care of. Maybe some PT. Maybe some Pilates. I’m not going to ignore you when you’re crying. I love you!

That’s it for now. I like writing to you. Now the question is  – are you going to write me back?

Love,

Susan

 

Day 2 #NHBPM: Free From All Worldly Engagements

writer’s cottage

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.  ~Henry David Thoreau

Day 2 – Friday, Nov. 2  Write about the weirdest thing about your health OR Find a quote and use it as inspiration

I’m not so sure what is weird about my health, so I’m going with prompt #2.

Today I woke up in this little cottage in the North Carolina woods. It’s my third flying trip in three weeks, and I was a total grump about getting on that plane. It really stressed me out to leave my work, my complete mess of a house, and numerous obligations to come on this family trip. Back when we planned it, it sounded like a good idea – to visit Mr. McBody’s aunt and uncle (whom I adore) at their home near Asheville, North Carolina.

And as it turns out, it was a VERY good idea. It has already been way worth the stress of wrenching myself out of my life yet once again. Because the last two trips were “busy” trips – one for a conference and to visit friends, and the second to visit Juniorette up at her college. They were bustling and busy and stimulating and GREAT, but also kind of exhausting before, during and after.

This trip? It almost brings tears to my eyes to realize how perfect it is, and how much I needed it. I am, as is no secret, a very very social person. I love meeting up with people at all of my beloved COMMUNITIES. I thrive on community – at Fitbloggin, at Weight Watchers, my adoption peeps, my writer buddies. But what might not be as well known is that I absolutely thrive and need solitude. I NEED IT.

this, to me, is more heaven than any beach on earth

Right now I am sitting at this little table in this little writers’ cottage (normally inhabited by Uncle McBody). It is a freaking DREAM. I am happy. I am beside myself with happy! Outside it is fall and the leaves are trembling in all of my favorite autumn colors. I can hear critters shuffling through them outside my window. Mr. McBody, up in the main house, is engaged in endless conversation with Uncle (which they both love) and my mother is utterly content with Auntie – watching the birds come to the bird feeder, patting the sweet cat, and dealing with the antics of the mischievous dog.

Maggie the dog

And I am here in the cottage, alone. Exactly where I want to be, doing what I most love to do.

This morning, I took a beautiful 4.1 mile run through the autumn countryside. It was crisp and cool and gorgeous. I was so happy.

my lovely run
this tree blew my mind!

We shared a lovely, healthy lunch. A veggie salad followed by two squares of dark chocolate. I like how these people live! (can I mention again how much I love them)

Seriously? Yum.

And now… quiet. Ahhh. I can actually think. And rest. And write. And I know that days/weeks like this are as crucial to my health as good food or exercise. I need to re-charge. I need to have no sound but the ticking clock on the little yellow stove.

Back in the day, I used to go to writing retreats a lot more. I was lucky enough to be granted fellowships at colonies like MacDowell, Blue Mountain and Hedgebrook. My longest time away was eight weeks, and man… it was heaven. My mom came to stand-in and help with my children, and everyone thrived. (that’s a whole OTHER topic that I won’t go into right now, how some people villainized me for “abandoning” my children to the care of (gasp!) their FATHER and GRANDMOTHER – but you know? they’re wonderfully functional young adults now, no scars to be had from THAT anyway, thankyouverymuch) Ironically, it’s been tougher to get away now that I have a job and a mother who is harder to leave than my children were.

Be that as it may. Even being here less than 24 hours has brought home to me the absolute necessity of finding and making time like this.  It’s as important as sleep, or air.

Do you like or need to be alone? How do you find time for it?

This post is part of a 30-day series for National Health Blog Post Month. Join me! And check out some other bloggers’ take for day 2:

Challenges Can be… Challenging!

I’ve been thinking a lot about a comment that was left recently, in which Karen said, “I don’t ‘do’ challenges…” and I nodded my head. She’s not that kind of person. So many people aren’t. But then I had to think. I AM the kind of person who does a challenge. As often as possible. Who almost needs a challenge in order to get ANYthing done. Left to my own devices, I’m likely to sit around and watch TV shows on Hulu all day. But given a challenge – and suddenly I am capable of things I would never consider on my own.

I am currently in a ton of challenges, some private ones just with myself, and then others that involve hundreds or more people.

  • The Writing Challenge:  I recently challenged myself to write as many consecutive days as possible on 750words.com. Blog posts do not count. I’m now on Day 3, which means I’ve earned myself a Turkey sticker. Yay me! Writing has been so important to me (so I say) and yet I do not make it as much of a priority as I’d like. So I’m just doing this on my own.
  • A running friend of mine has challenged me to run every day. Any time or distance. I am now on Day 5. Last night it was almost midnight and I hadn’t run. I put on my shoes and ran circles around my little street for 5 minutes. I’m saying that counted. But… no way would that have happened without the Running Challenge.

    on the running trail
  • The Yoga Challenge: I have done one yoga pose a day for the past 15 days. Except for today. Tomorrow I will do two. I admit that I tried today’s pose in the morning and it scared me so I backed off. I will complete it tomorrow, with picture, as well as tomorrow’s pose.
  • Creative Process Challenge: I’ve been reading this bookwhich asserts that for successful writing to occur, you must do three things. Process, product and self-care. I count the running and yoga as self-care. The product is what happens with the Writing Challenge. But now I am also challenging myself to 15 minutes of non-goal oriented creative process per day. So far I have played with pink Play-Dough and done a drawing of a pumpkin. Two days down.

    i love the smell
  • The Big Blue Test: from now until Nov 14th (National Diabetes Day) I am participating in the Big Blue Test. This very test helped me understand the link between diabetic health and exercise, and I will be forever grateful. I encourage everyone, diabetic or not, to participate, because every test done means that $5 will be donated for much-needed medical supplies.

SO those are the things I am doing right now. That’s a minimum of an hour (or more) committed to Challenges per day.  I’m finding the time where it seems there is none. But I can say if I weren’t doing the challenges, that time would be lost.

I think I am the kind of person who NEEDS challenges. Interesting.

Have you ever participated in a challenge to get yourself going? Are you doing one now? Tell me!

Race Recap: The Muddy Buddy!

I really worked hard for this bling.

One of the things I have loved the most in this past year has been bringing people along on their first official race. Mary joined me in her first 5k at See Jane Run; Sofia joined me in the Color Run (and went on to do her first half marathon and is now training for her first full marathon — WOOHOO!) and this past weekend, my friend Ericka threw her fears to the wind and joined me in the wackiest race of all – the Muddy Buddy. I don’t even remember how this happened; but I think it was via a Facebook post when I thought she was joking about joining me. Ericka has been my workout buddy with our beloved trainer DJ for several years now – we have sweated together plenty, but she has always declared herself “not a runner” and she was content to cheer me on from afar.  I actually have no idea what came over her, but I was so psyched!!

DJ really helped us get our butts in gear for this one.

Ericka and I have both had our health battles recently. We celebrated our 50th birthdays, and then I got diabetes and she was hit with Graves disease. Our combined age is 105 (!!!) which put us squarely in the “Women Masters” category for this race. I reminded her that we are in a tiny percentage of 50-year old women with chronic diseases who are participating in athletic events at this level.

I have done a few “fun runs” of 5ks recently, and they truly have been fun for me. But I knew this one was going to be tougher – including off road biking on a mountain bike, likely hills, and those crazy obstacles. If there’s one thing I don’t feel super confident about, it’s my upper arm strength. However, I told Ericka that our aim was to FINISH, and to finish was to win. I really believed that.

We are both writers, and we needed a team name. She came up with “Dirty Wordsters” (haha). I made us matching team shirts (thanks to watching my daughters make dozens of them for their crew team in the past 6 years) and she decorated the bike with dirty words like “filth” and “slime.” We so clever!

pencils on the move!
“dirty words” – hahaha

Mr. McBody and I picked up Ericka at 5:30am and we drove down to San Jose to this park. Lily’s husband, who grew up there, had already warned me it was “pretty hilly.” Since he was a varsity triathlete at Cal, this was something I took very seriously. Ack. HILLS. Not my favorite.

We got there, jumped around to warm up, visited the PortaPotty, and tried to relax. But I was hecka nervous. I heard the race announcer say that the first mile was “straight uphill.” NICE!

We were in the last wave to start, the “Women Masters.” (ie, the old ladies) I was relieved to see other women our age. It’s not often you go up to other women and ask, “How old are you?” but I did just that and when the other women said “53” I jumped up and gave them high-fives. Yeah baby, we rock. I was feeling pretty fierce and ready.

Rawr!! Dirty Wordsters!

We moved on up and saw the other waves taking off. We saw some people walking their bikes right from the Start line. I kept saying, I’m gonna walk, I’m gonna walk, but then when I was at the Start and I saw everyone on their bikes, shame took hold of me and I was like, well, I’ll ride, until I can’t. I’m actually glad I did.

At the starting line: pretty nervous

The starting horn went off and I got on the bike. I was glad to make it up a few hundred yards before it just got TOO steep. At that point I’d say 90% of the participants were walking, pushing their bikes. Damn that bike was HEAVY. Pretty soon the “runners” were overtaking us (bike members went first, then runners). But they weren’t really running either. Like I said, it was hecka steep. And it went on. And on. I felt like I was eating dust, just heaving for every breath. It went on for a full mile. Just up. And up. And up. It felt pretty darn grim.

At the top of the hill was our first obstacle, and time for me to leave the bike in the “Bike Drop” for my buddy. Of course she had passed me by, walking! We climbed on this spiderwebby thing, up and over. I got a tad bit freaked at the very top, but managed it OK.

Then it was more rolling hills, run, bike, obstacle. Each of us had 3 bike parts and 3 running parts. I was jealous that her first bike was this gorgeous downhill section! But then I got to run that as well.

What can I say? It felt long. It felt really, really hot. We were out in open fields with NOTHING out there but for a dirt trail. But it was okay. There were lots of other people around us – ie, we weren’t being left in the dust – including what seemed to be many younger people (what???). We kept passing the same folks off and on.

The obstacles, which I had been nervous about, weren’t too bad at all. There was a mud tunnel, which I have to say we were very prepared for. We do a lot of low crawling and walking in our trainer workouts. The high things were not so bad. Until the very end (I’ll get to that).

The entire course took us about an hour and a half (OK, exactly an hour and a half)! Which had been my optimistic estimate. I’d looked at other race results and saw that many women our age were coming in between 1:30 and 2:00. So I was hoping for 1:30 at best, and well, whatever it took, as long as we finished.

For the final leg, Ericka was on bike and I was on foot. She had to wait for me for a while because we were supposed to do the final 3 obstacles, including the Mud Pit, together.

waiting on the road for her buddy

Eventually I showed up. We were both pretty tired, but stoked that it was almost over. The first obstacle was a some sort of giant ladder climbing thing. (I think) Not bad. The second one was a rope climb over this blue wooden wall. It didn’t LOOK that bad. I grabbed the rope. Then started to walk up. Hahahaha. The wall was covered in something very slippery — lard? butter? soap?? In any case, we tried and tried and after a few minutes just looked at each other and said, “Uh-uh.” We walked around it.

thwarted by the soapy, slippery wall! This picture makes me laugh and laugh.

Then it was time for the infamous MUD PIT. Ooooh boy!! I will say that the cold wet mud felt REALLY GOOD after all that dry dusty heat. We crawled under the flag ropes like a couple of mud puppies. Laughing.

Then we had a little female mud-wrestling moment.

Then clambered out. I don’t think I’ve ever truly understood the word “clamber” until then.

It helps to get a helping hand from one’s buddy.

Then we ran through the finish holding hands. Then we got our medals. We were PSYCHED!

I thought they were cups of water, and was very excited to find Oreos inside

Then it was shower (aka garden hose) time. Boy did we need that.

Ayeeeee!

To say that we were filthy was an understatement. But that was the point, right? It was darn hard. It was challenging. We really, really pushed. But in the end I am proud to say that we came in with 43 other teams behind us, most of them younger than we are. That made me feel really good. Not bad for 52 and 53, huh?

So many people asked me, “WHY on earth would you voluntarily sign up for something like that?” And looked even more incredulous when I answered, “Because I’d never done one.” Ha ha, I know, most people haven’t, and have no desire to. But for me, it’s about changing it up, finding new things to do to stay active and most importantly to have fun.

Special shout-out to Mr McBody, star medic, bike tech support and paparazzi. Love!

What’s the wackiest, craziest or most fun race you’ve ever done?

Guest Post: Up and Running!

Today’s guest post is by Julia Jones – triathlete and running coach. Alongside Shauna “Dietgirl” Reid she created Up & Running online running courses for women. They invited me to be a stop on their Blog Tour this week.

It’s easy to feel discouraged when you’ve had a terrible training session or run a rubbish race, but these less than perfect scenarios can help make you a stronger athlete! Coach Julia explains all…

Coach Julia at a 10K in sunny

This last spring I ran several half marathons as part of my buildup to a June 70.3 Half Ironman. The 70.3 finishes with a thirteen mile run, and that’s after swimming over a mile and biking fifty-six. I wanted to get comfortable with the 21K distance so that it just rolled out automatically at the end of my triathlon. I figured the best way to do that, besides my normal training plan, was to run the distance several times before the actual race.

I signed up for three smaller half marathons and then got offered a place in the Milan Marathon. I figured I could just conveniently duck out at the 21km mark.

I checked the weather forecast the day before the race: rain. Pouring rain. All day and all night. It was April so not freezing cold, but not exactly toasty warm. I packed a pair of gloves, a long sleeved shirt and a visor to keep the rain off my glasses, then took the train to Italy’s northern capital.

There was drizzle on the windowpanes on the ride up, then a torrential downpour as I dragged my bags through the streets to the hotel. Later at dinner in the hotel restaurant hail pelted on the roof.

The next morning dressed in my running garb I looked out the window and saw that nothing had changed during the night.

The heavens opened up yet again at the start line as thousands of runners huddled together waiting for the gun to go off. As I ran the first mile I asked myself the question that a few of you might be thinking now… “Why the heck are you doing this?”

For the next two soggy hours I jumped over puddles and had to run through a few. When I pulled out at thirteen miles, mission accomplished, I ran to the changing tent to get into some dry clothes then watch the finish. I stuck around for about three seconds – I was drenched again and had really had enough rain for the day. Maybe for the rest of the year!

In psychology there’s a term known as Resilience, which is our ability to cope with stress and adversity. The more we subject ourselves to situations that are difficult or just a litte more of a reach over our emotional or physical abilities, the better we get at handling them. They say that Resilience is a process, not a trait. You’re not born with Resilience, it’s something you can actually train and develop, from whatever level you happen to be starting from.

I’ve seen women develop their Resilience lesson after lesson in our Up & Running courses. At first it can feel like a huge struggle just to get out the door for a training session. But after a few weeks it becomes routine. Then they start building their Resilience through races. The 5k becomes 10k. Those building blocks stack up until they’re doing things they’d never dreamed of…
I develop my own resilience by dragging myself out of bed in the early hours of dawn, or by running races in the pouring rain. Countless times I’ve drawn upon that triumphant feeling of running through a storm to get through a difficult patch in a race, or a day that didn’t start off well.

It’s also helped me recognize that no experience is ever wasted; no matter how difficult it may seem in the moment. It’s a building block onto better things and you’ll always come out a winner!

Julia Jones lives in Italy and is coach at Up & Running. They offer e-courses for super-new and seasoned runners tackling 5K, 10K and half-marathon runs with expert coaching, awesome training plans and vibrant community support. Julia’s has rocked 33 marathons, 2 half Ironmans and numerous triathlons and is a columnist in Italy’s most popular running magazine.

Want to build up your own running resilience? Get a helping hand with Up & Running’s next e-courses which start 3 September.

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